Recent RISD graduate Zihe Gong likes to describe her creative process as a kind of cooking. Drawing on memories of growing up in China, Gong mixes references to that nation’s culture and culinary traditions into furniture and household objects. Made from epoxy-coated steel, a spindly coat rack and chairs evoke pig intestines, while their bell-shaped wooden feet nod to hogs’ trotters.
Though her pieces appear friendly, even whimsical, their forms are based on "very raw and funky gestures," Gong explains, turning complex cultural experiences into approachable objects. And the design world is taking note: Her porcine work took home this year’s NYCXDesign student award.
Learn why Gong would like to redesign a dog bed, plus read more of her responses to our Q&A below.
Hometown: Lake Forest, CA
Describe what you make in 140 characters. I focus to make friendly, tangible, and sometimes quirky everyday objects that explores sensitive topics that are frequently misunderstood.
What's the last thing you designed? A desk lamp.
Do you have a daily creative ritual? I'm always drawing/sketching. I used to keep a sketch book with me everyday, but now I've switched to the iPad.
How do you procrastinate? I cuddle with my dog Milu, or cook something to eat.
What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? A dog bed. I'm having a hard time finding a bed that Milu and I both like.
Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? In design, I look up to Faye Toogood. In life, Hayao Miyazaki is always in my heart.
What skill would you most like to learn? There's a lot I want to learn! At the time being I really want to learn ceramics and rug making.
What is your most treasured possession? The people who I love.
What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? I visited a house designed by a friend of my dad's when I was in primary school. The interior is so gorgeous, and I was deeply impressed by the power of design.
What contemporary design trend do you despise? I tend to not think about trends.
Finish this statement: All design should...be polite and willing to communicate.
What’s in your dream house? People I love; many, many, many animal friends; and lots of plants
Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? Baking and frosting cakes. Also, I recently got a Wacom. I am slowly learning digital drawing now.
How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I haven't gained too much experience in design field yet, so it's hard to me to predict how the future would be. However, I always believe that a crisis could also be a favorable turn. I think the importance is to keep ourselves engaged.
How can the design world be more inclusive? I think we need to be more generous about things we repel.
What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? Don't ask your designer friend, or even friend's friend, to design something free for you.
The Dwell 24 2020
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